The Spellplague and Spellscarred-How has it been handled?

26 posts / 0 new
Last post

Hi all,
What are your opinions on the spellplague and the spellscarred?

Spellplague
1. Does the spellplague improve the campaign setting?
2. Has LFR handled the spellplague well?
3. How interested are you playing mods with the spellplague as a primary theme (as opposed to say fighting the Netherese, solving the Mystara mystery etc etc).

Spellscarred
1. How interested are you in playing a spellscarred? Where has the spellscarred "class" gone right/wrong?
2. How do you feel about spellscarred monsters/spellscarred encounter themes? 

The Spellplague:

1. I suppose it improves the setting by providing the opportunity to encounter some more "unusual" areas and creatures outside of planar trips.

2. I think the spellplague (lands and creatures) has so far been underused in LFR considering how much importance was placed on it in the changing of the forgotten realms and that there are supposedly pockets outside the plaguelands where it exists.

3. I'm interested in playing adventures where the spellplague is encountered. Whether or not it's the primary theme is not as important to me.

Spellscarred:

1. I might be interested in playing a spellscarred, but the fact that you can only access it using the RPGA card which only allows "Larger than Life" to start (unless you got the other card during prerelease, I believe) has been relevent in my not yet having a spellscarred character.

2. I guess I answered this above. I would be interested in seeing spellscarred monsters/encounters occasionally. I would hate for this to be overused though.
-Sartredes

1. Does the spellplague improve the campaign setting?

I can't think of one way in which it has.  I've seen storylines, story arcs, &c that have *involved* the spellplague.  But no adventures or storylines come to mind that used the spellplague in such a way that some other plot device or storyline could not have easily substituted.  Granted, I haven't played as much as I might have.

2. Has LFR handled the spellplague well?

Mmmm . . . no.  See above.  Could easily be adventures I have not played yet that *did* handle the spellplague well, though.

3. How interested are you playing mods with the spellplague as a primary theme (as opposed to say fighting the Netherese, solving the Mystara mystery etc etc).

That's "Mystra" isn't it, as in the

spoiler
Order of Blue Fire thinking the Spellplague is a manifestation of Mystra and trying to spread it over the world to free her?
  Not particularly.  This is because I just don't get a sense of the fight making a difference to the character or in the campaign world as a whole.

(edit) - That is not to say that I would be opposed to playing *well-implemented* mods that had the spellplague.  But currently, I don't get the feeling that there is any unifying force against the Spellplague, or that trying to combat the Spellplague makes any sort of real difference, either to the PC, the NPC, or any NPC interest groups.  And when you get the feeling that something really doesn't make any sort of difference - well, how interested would *you* be in following that storyline?

There's no primary forces I've seen that personify the fight against spellscarring.  Well, there's Tyrangal, but she hasn't really said much or done much just yet - so again, not a personification.  Where's the human face (or elf or whatever) in the battle *against* the spellscarred?  Who's going to support my PC in his/her struggle?  Why does the struggle even make a difference?  There's a lot of disconnected events that involve spellscarred creatures, but what is the difference in the campaign world, the NPC groups that care about the outcome of the battle - you see?

Spellscarred
1. How interested are you in playing a spellscarred? Where has the spellscarred "class" gone right/wrong?

You have to use an RPGA card to play it.  That's just . . . awful IMHO.  If racial cards didn't take up a slot, I would feel way better about the class.

Besides that, I think you should be able to *pick up* a spellscar in play, which to date I have not seen.  The literature describes that characters pick up spellscars on scar pilgrimages.  Why not PCs?  (edit)  Apparently it's just not allowed, which I understand as a game mechanic, but . . . well, let me put forth an idea, for example.  Usually you need to use a Character Creation card at 1st level to have the Spellplague.  What if, 1st, character creation cards didn't take up a slot, and 2nd, certain adventures let you *pick up* a spellscar (noted that you CAN choose Larger than Life as a spellscar creation card available as PDF).  I bet if you allowed that, spellplagued storyline popularity would just explode.  (As a side note, I would not be opposed to writing this into an LFR adventure.)

Anyways, I have generally just ignored spellscars.

2. How do you feel about spellscarred monsters/spellscarred encounter themes? 


If something's going to be "spellscarred", it isn't enough to just say "it spellscar!  rargh!"  It's got to be carefully set up by the storyline, and meticulously crafted with attention to detail, detail, detail.  Specifically - why does the fact that it's spellscarred make it different from some generic fight against some weird monster?  I'm not saying you need revelations all the time, but there needs to be some distinction, which so far has I think been lacking.


I think writers have made fair use of the Spellplague so far as an agent - that is, something that uses the Spellplague or is affected by the Spellplague, and so on and so forth.  But what I would like to see is use of the Spellplague as a *subject*.

Which makes me wonder what would happen if they assigned a spellscarred storyline to Waterdeep.  But I digress.

The Spellplague does not excite me. I wasn't an FR fan pre-4e, so it's not nostalgia -- I'm just not seeing it used to any great effect. The places where I've enjoyed spellplague material... mostly Byar's Seven, and you could substitute J. Random Arcane effect there without much loss.


DALE 2-1 relies on the history of the Spellplague to good effect, so there's one exception.


Short shameful confession regarding ADCP 2-1: if you tell me there are monoliths coming towards me, out of the Plagueland, I am going to immediately envision Naxxaramas. So a lot of any potential Spellplague impact there was probably lost on me.


I don't dislike the Spellplague either. It just hasn't made much of an effect on me.

I like the concept of spellplague.

I very much wanted to have 1-2 PCs be spellscarred. But, the powers are just terrible. A feat to take a weaker power? Yeah, no thanks. (I consider it every level with my bard... but I love my bard powers!) I can see that if they had made it fantastic (the way it logically should be since you were touched by an incredible power source!) then all PCs would be spellscarred and the setting would make no sense. But... the current state is fairly ludicrous with practically no spellscarring outside of a few periodic exceptions.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Short shameful confession regarding ADCP 2-1: if you tell me there are monoliths coming towards me, out of the Plagueland, I am going to immediately envision Naxxaramas. So a lot of any potential Spellplague impact there was probably lost on me.



Probably a stupid question but: What is Naxxaramas?  Sounds like some kind of aboleth holiday.

[Edit: Ah, OK, it's a World of Warcraft thing.  I wouldn't understand.  ]

Talk to you later -- Sean ---- M. Sean Molley | sean [at] basementsoftware [dot] com LFR Global Administrator
Probably a stupid question but: What is Naxxaramas?  Sounds like some kind of aboleth holiday.

[Edit: Ah, OK, it's a World of Warcraft thing.  I wouldn't understand.  ]



Yeah, it's just a name coincidence that happened to resonate with me. ;)
Besides that, I think you should be able to *pick up* a spellscar in play, which to date I have not seen.  The literature describes that characters pick up spellscars on scar pilgrimages.  Why not PCs?



I woudl say because you need a card to play it.  One of them is an Expansion card (as opposed to a creation card) and can be added to your stack at any time (Larger then Life), so you can "pick it up" at any time.  Play a MyRealms mod and go to the plaguelands.  It'd be a perfect use for a MyRealms mod.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
Spellscarred is so underpowered as to be worth it only in extreme niche cases or for someone who thinks the flavor is just so good that he can overlook the loss in power.

Dragonmarks are so overpowered that the majority of characters in that campaign world should have one.

Hopefully, Dark Sun and future campaign settings will get their campaign-specific mechanics in the right balance neighborhood.

Dragonmarks are so overpowered that the majority of characters in that campaign world should have one.



Minor philosophical digression: sure! And they can, if it's a home game with only 5 PCs. The PCs are, after all, able to be the special people. Overpowered options only become a problem if it's a living campaign and all five thousand PCs have the same "rare" option... 
There are actually many more LFR adventures that involve the Spellplague either directly or indirectly than DALE2-1.  For example, every adventure involving earth motes are possible only due to the Spellplague. It is just that we avoid using the Plaguelands, and if you have read the novel The Edge of Chaos you would understand why. Those regions are way too lethal for anybody to enter unless you have a suicide wish or some kind of protective ritual as used in ADCP2-1.

(Mind you, we have been told not to deal too much with the Spellplague itself. That event took place 1 century before the current era and it is a done deal.)
There are actually many more LFR adventures that involve the Spellplague either directly or indirectly than DALE2-1.  For example, every adventure involving earth motes are possible only due to the Spellplague. It is just that we avoid using the Plaguelands, and if you have read the novel The Edge of Chaos you would understand why. Those regions are way too lethal for anybody to enter unless you have a suicide wish or some kind of protective ritual as used in ADCP2-1.

(Mind you, we have been told not to deal too much with the Spellplague itself. That event took place 1 century before the current era and it is a done deal.)




Oh, sure. DALE 2-1 just struck me as an adventure that really used the Spellplague to good effect, as opposed to the adventures where it's background. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter. 
There are actually many more LFR adventures that involve the Spellplague either directly or indirectly than DALE2-1. 



I think Corm 1-4 tied the spellplague into the story very well.
Question: when you are looking for the Spellplague, do you mean historical references to the actual Spellplague which occurred in 1385, the Year of Blue Fire, or residual pockets of Spellplague that might be encountered?  Our guidance from WotC was historical references to the Spellplague should be rare as while this is "new" to the players, it is "ancient history" to the characters/creatures in the world.  The plaguelands are, as Pieter stated, very dangerous, and when we started, I don't think we had good guidance as to how to handle the effect game mechanics wise.  Work done for ADCP2-1 may help with that.

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep
Short shameful confession regarding ADCP 2-1: if you tell me there are monoliths coming towards me, out of the Plagueland, I am going to immediately envision Naxxaramas. So a lot of any potential Spellplague impact there was probably lost on me.

See, I was expecting a bunch of Necrons to come pouring out.

On topic:

Spellplague 1. Does the spellplague improve the campaign setting?
2. Has LFR handled the spellplague well?
3. How interested are you playing mods with the spellplague as a primary theme (as opposed to say fighting the Netherese, solving the Mystara mystery etc etc).



I think LFR has done an OK job at handling the spellplague. I think the spellplague has allowed LFR to use some pretty amazing locations, scenery and characters. Grimlock from WATE1-2 and the first fight of DALE1-7 come to mind. That said, if you can't tell a good story without fanciful locations, dressing it up with plaguelands isn't going to help. DALE1-2 and TYMA 1-2 & 1-5 have had fairly mundane settings but great stories.

I think LFR has done a poor job incorporating the spellscarred character option into adventures. It's my only real critique of ADCP2-1. Spellscarred is an RP-centric flavor option that requires a rewards card and provides some serious penalties. IMHO it should have more story impact.

However, I think LFR has done a poor job incorporating a lot of FR-specific options, like regional languages. IIRC, common in Abeir-Toril is little more than a trade language. In reality characters that don't speak a region's language shouldn't be able to say much more than "where's the bathroom?" let alone conduct social skill challenges as easily as a native speaker.

I'd really like to see LFR stress Forgotten Realms options a little more. You're allowed to play a Kalashtar and be from the Windrise Ports, but you shouldn't want to because your race & region should have significant story impact.

Spellscarred
1. How interested are you in playing a spellscarred? Where has the spellscarred "class" gone right/wrong?
2. How do you feel about spellscarred monsters/spellscarred encounter themes?

I have a spellscarred revenant, but I haven't taken the multiclass feat.

The multiclass feats provide no skill training and give you a serious defense penalty in exchange for some very mediocre utility. Bar one, all of the powers I've looked at are less powerful than most class powers of a lower level. e.g.:
  • Scar-carving blade, 3rd-level encounter. 1[W] + Str + a conditional 5). It's strictly worse than most 1st-level fighter encounter powers, equivalent to most Fighter at-wills).

  • Submission of the Earth, 9th-level daily. 3[W] + ongoing 5 + immobilized. Avenger, Swordmage, Warlock and Wizard have similar or superior immobilize powers as level 1 dailies.


I'd really like to take them, but I just can't rationalize it.

I've been hoping for a Spellscarred Redux article to appear in Dragon that makes the MC attractive, maybe provides some new powers, etc. I've been meaning to propose one myself, but I can't imagine no one else has thought of it, and with Eberron out and Dark Sun coming, I can't imagine Wizards being too eager to throw out some FR-specific support now.

Spellplague really hasn't been a big issue in adventures; PCs mostly ignore it unless its thrown in their face like in the BI, DALE 1-4 or AGLA 1-4. In game history that time is actually over and done with as the world continues to recover and try to cope with the major changes and the scars that remain of the spellplague (Vilhon Wilds, plague lands, spellscarred, etc).

A home campaign might have more on the spellscarred, but unless the writers slap us with it us players mostly shrug our shoulders and pretend it doesn't exist.

Personally, I would like to have more modules or a chain of adventures dealing with this directly.
My primary character was created with a spellscar purely as a roleplaying hook with no real mechanical benefit. (Sight of the Unseen on... a drow. Right. Big power there.)

I've played her over 13 levels so far and have been massively underwhelmed at the effects of having the card in the stack.

In, there haven't been any, really, roleplaying or otherwise. Well, other than player characters going "Ewww."



-karma
LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric
Spellplague

1. Does the spellplague improve the campaign setting?
2. Has LFR handled the spellplague well?
3. How interested are you playing mods with the spellplague as a primary theme (as opposed to say fighting the Netherese, solving the Mystara mystery etc etc).



(1) Not particularly. It seems mainly employed either as a deus ex machina, or to place arbitrary magical events and auras wherever convenient, or to handwave differences between the "old" forgotten realms and the 4E version.


(2) It is generally not noticeable. I'm not convinced that this is a bad thing, really.


(3) It could potentially be interesting; I find there are a bit too many mods about combating the few standard Evil Nations Of Bad Guys (tm), and this could be a refreshing change of pace. But for this to work, there has to be more to the spellplague than "random magical effects because we say so".



1. How interested are you in playing a spellscarred? Where has the spellscarred "class" gone right/wrong?
2. How do you feel about spellscarred monsters/spellscarred encounter themes? 


(1) Not particularly. Spellscarred characters aren't meaningfully different from other characters.
(2) They wouldn't work unless there's a substantial amount of spellscarred characters involved. I don't see how a spellscarred monster or encounter would be meaningfully different from other monsters or encounters.

I think the key here is "meaningfully different", and that's not likely to be resolved since the FRPG has already been completed. Spellscar powers may be uncommon, but essentially they do the same as any other class power.

2. How do you feel about spellscarred monsters/spellscarred encounter themes? 


I think the key here is "meaningfully different", and that's not likely to be resolved since the FRPG has already been completed. Spellscar powers may be uncommon, but essentially they do the same as any other class power.


You do know what a monster theme is, do you? It is a group of minor utility and attack powers a DM can add to a group of monsters to give them a common theme. It is from the DMG2 where they have themes like demogorgon, Lloth, goblin-allies, legions of hell and so on. For example, a Lloth-bound creature would get spider climbe and a poison bite attack.

Show
See IMPI2-1 for reflavoring of existing themes to get a spellscar theme.

You do know what a monster theme is, do you? It is a group of minor utility and attack powers a DM can add to a group of monsters to give them a common theme. It is from the DMG2 where they have themes like demogorgon, Lloth, goblin-allies, legions of hell and so on. For example, a Lloth-bound creature would get spider climbe and a poison bite attack.


Sure, but unless the players have read the DM's stat blocks (or know the MM by heart, which in my experience most LFR players don't), they are unlikely to spot the difference between a kuo-toa and a spellscarred kuo-toa, or between a sphinx and a Lolth-bound sphinx.

If players see a monster with a poison attack, they are unlikely to conclude that the monster must therefore be related to Lolth, because plenty of other things also have a poison attack for unrelated reasons. If a monster can throw bolts of lightning around because it's spellscarred, that won't attract attention since any wizard, warlock or sorcerer can do essentially the same thing. That's what I mean by "not meaningfully different".
Oh, sure. DALE 2-1 just struck me as an adventure that really used the Spellplague to good effect, as opposed to the adventures where it's background. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter. 



Thanks ;)
We used the Spellplague in a few places as background or history. DALE1-1 is an example (it actually establishes a few events that took place at the time). DALE1-2 doesn' t use it, though you can find a reference to a plaguechanged feature in Dagger Falls.
DALE1-4 (and some of its sequels) also features plague-like effects, though the spellplague did not have as much to do with that as one migtht think.

Gomez
Sure, but unless the players have read the DM's stat blocks (or know the MM by heart, which in my experience most LFR players don't), they are unlikely to spot the difference between a kuo-toa and a spellscarred kuo-toa, or between a sphinx and a Lolth-bound sphinx.

If players see a monster with a poison attack, they are unlikely to conclude that the monster must therefore be related to Lolth, because plenty of other things also have a poison attack for unrelated reasons. If a monster can throw bolts of lightning around because it's spellscarred, that won't attract attention since any wizard, warlock or sorcerer can do essentially the same thing. That's what I mean by "not meaningfully different".


Ah, mechanically the difference would indeed be minor, although in case of a spellscar there is always spellscar susceptibility and spellscar senses. There is a difference in appearances, which is the heart of themes. It up to the DM to describe the fact that something odd is going on. For example, a goblin with a poisonous bite or a flaming aura is odd, as anybody with a DC 15 Nature check would be able to know. The goblin with the poisonous bite could also look a bit like a serpent, while the one with the flaming aura smells of sulpher and has a skin which reminds the PCs of a devilskin. Spellscar stuff is usually blue fire and when used the scar glows on the skin.

Ah, mechanically the difference would indeed be minor, although in case of a spellscar there is always spellscar susceptibility and spellscar senses.


This made me think of EAST1-5: Mole Hunt. I skimmed the adventure, and I believe that the only time it mentions spellscarred PCs, it does so to call out that they provide no benefit.

I would have loved  to run that adventure with KarmaInferno's character. Laughing

You do know what a monster theme is, do you? It is a group of minor utility and attack powers a DM can add to a group of monsters to give them a common theme. It is from the DMG2 where they have themes like demogorgon, Lloth, goblin-allies, legions of hell and so on. For example, a Lloth-bound creature would get spider climbe and a poison bite attack.


Sure, but unless the players have read the DM's stat blocks (or know the MM by heart, which in my experience most LFR players don't), they are unlikely to spot the difference between a kuo-toa and a spellscarred kuo-toa, or between a sphinx and a Lolth-bound sphinx.

If players see a monster with a poison attack, they are unlikely to conclude that the monster must therefore be related to Lolth, because plenty of other things also have a poison attack for unrelated reasons. If a monster can throw bolts of lightning around because it's spellscarred, that won't attract attention since any wizard, warlock or sorcerer can do essentially the same thing. That's what I mean by "not meaningfully different".



This is also the campaign where human monsters have the abilities and powers of bugbears, dwarves, troglodites, and other weird monsters thanks to reskinning.  At this point if a monster has an ability that doesn't make sense for what it is I just roll my eyes and play along, so if a creature is different due to a spellscar rather than reskinning I'm not going to catch it unless the DM makes a point of telling us it's different.
I like the concept of spellplague.

I very much wanted to have 1-2 PCs be spellscarred. But, the powers are just terrible. A feat to take a weaker power? Yeah, no thanks. (I consider it every level with my bard... but I love my bard powers!) I can see that if they had made it fantastic (the way it logically should be since you were touched by an incredible power source!) then all PCs would be spellscarred and the setting would make no sense. But... the current state is fairly ludicrous with practically no spellscarring outside of a few periodic exceptions.



Another poster mentioned hoping for some Dragon crunch that would make taking Spellscarred powers more desirable.

PLEASE DO THIS!!

I have a Spellscarred Dragonborn Bard (with Sight of the Unseen).  So far the only time my spellscar came into play in any significant way was in playing the Battle Interactive.  Also, there was one mod I played where another player cast an area spell that created a zone of darkness.  My character was just outside that zone, and an enemy directly in front of me, inside the zone.  Since I had Sight of the Unseen (with darkvision up to 1 square away from me), I could see the enemy but they couldn't see me.  That was about it.  At one point I took Burning the Plagued Bellows -- a 9th level daily Spellscarred power.  It was unique in how it worked, but the power was nigh unusable, so I retrained it out to the Wizard power Ice Storm instead.  Much more bang for my buck. 

I would really, REALLY like to see better Spellscarred powers.  Even the Spellscarred paragon path is incredibly underwhelming.  I thought the idea of not releasing the two promo cards was to limit access to what should be a highly desirable set of powers.  (After all, the whole reason for having the Spellscarred feat is to show that you've mastered the power of your Spellscar, to some extent, rather than being like the average plaguechanged monster.)

Damon

I thought the idea of not releasing the two promo cards was to limit access to what should be a highly desirable set of powers.  (After all, the whole reason for having the Spellscarred feat is to show that you've mastered the power of your Spellscar, to some extent, rather than being like the average plaguechanged monster.)

Damon



My conversations with folks near the start of the campaign indicated that the "promo" aspect was to allow the rarity of spellscars to be visible in gameplay as well as the world; in fact, I had heard that there was a concerted effort to *prevent* special or promotional access (orcs, spellscars, etc) from offering anything strictly more desirable than what was core material - that "different" wasn't always "better".
John du Bois Living Forgotten Realms Writing Director, Netheril story area Follow me on The Twitter: @JohnduBois Follow my presence on The Intertubes: johncdubois.wordpress.com
Sign In to post comments